This session was part of the CFR Symposium on the United States and the Future of Global Governance, which was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.
This session was part of the CFR Symposium on the United States and the Future of Global Governance, which was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.
HENRY D. SOKOLSKI: First of all, I want to welcome you all. It's a wonderful morning. I know some of you on the panel were actually out jogging this morning, so I really appreciate that you decided to cut that down to a minimum and come here. (Laughter.)
And today, we are going to take a look at the question of how one might go about strengthening the NPT.
Now, before I go any further, if you have a cell phone, turn it off! I'm told you're not even to allow it to vibrate. (Scattered laughter.) Okay. By the way, they confiscate them if they go off, so it's pretty serious. All right.
My name's Henry Sokoloski. I run the nonprofit Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. And today, we're going to listen to the thoughts of three people who I would describe as up and comers. I can say that, because I think I'm about 20 years older than most of you. And I've had the pleasure of working with each of these people. I think we're going to have a good day.
You can look at these resumes -- they're pretty impressive -- but roughly, Paul Lettow on my left here has done more at his age than I will do in two lifetimes. You've written a book on Reagan. You've managed to get a law degree from one of those fancy schools. You've clerked on a federal court. You've worked in the State Department, at the NSC and on top of that, you're now working on a report for the Council. So we expect great things from you.
Chris I had the pleasure of meeting when he served on the Hill for Fred Thompson -- Senator Thompson. He has a legal background. He serves in the Navy. He is also an author and a very consummate historian as well -- and I have a strong preference for historians. So we're lucky -- we have two very accomplished ones. And he as well, you know, is working now at the Hudson. I notice my wife is here and she's from the Hudson and we're glad that he was able to join there. So it's almost like small family.
And then finally, Charles Ferguson, who is the resident Washington scholar on things that are explosive and things that are nuclear -- terrorism he has written on for the Council; the economics of nuclear power. He worked on a report on India. And most recently, I believe there are some copies of this, we have -- help me here; help me here!
CHARLES D. FERGUSON III: Task Force on U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy.
SOKOLSKI: There you go. We're trying to beat out that commission, but I don't know.
FERGUSON: By a couple of days.
SOKOLSKI: A couple of days.
FERGUSON: That's important.
SOKOLSKI: So we have a lot of expertise here.
One comment before we begin. The idea that you can strengthen nonproliferation regimes is a nice idea, but it has about it the tone of many things that diplomats say when they encounter something that's ugly and complicated. What comes to mind is phrases like "proliferation resistant reactors" -- not sure I know what that means. Almost every weapons state first mastered how to get a large reactor up to get a bomb.
"Safeguards" -- sounds like a good idea. You want to be guarded and safe, but do inspections really prevent military diversions? Not always. "Reliable supply" -- there are all these phrases.
Strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime is like that. It makes it sound as though we know what the rules are and all we have to do is turn up the gain. The problem, as we'll find out -- I hope today -- is that the rules frequently embrace opposite principles. And if you strengthen a certain view of these rules, you will genuinely make things worse.
So with that, I thought I'd open it up with a question. And what we'll try to do is move quickly through these so that you can be thoroughly frustrated at the end of this panel.
All right. Both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency are dedicated to protecting and promoting the inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy. By the way, they actually use this phrase in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as if it was like the Declaration of Independence -- a natural right. At the same time, both of these efforts were dedicated from preventing civilian nuclear energy from being diverted to make nuclear weapons.
Iran and many other countries -- including our own -- say this right includes a per se right to come right up to the brink of making bombs by making nuclear fuel. Once you have highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium, you're days away -- depending on what else you've done -- from getting a bomb -- maybe hours.
This panel, of course, is dedicated to strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
Here's the question. What do we have to do to add to or reinterpret the nuclear rules to make sure that strengthening the regime doesn't end up spreading nuclear weapons-making capabilities and giving would-be bomb makers the legal cover they need to do so?
Now, I thought we'd start with two experts on this very question. Paul is working on a CFR report on strengthening the NPT regime and knows a great deal about Article IV. The only person who arguably knows even more is our historian friend, Chris. So why don't we lead with you two, and then I am curious, Charles, to hear what you have to say as well.
PAUL VORBECK LETTOW: Well, thanks, Henry.
I do think, looking back at the historical context is particularly important in this case, because how we got to where we are will determine in part how we move forward.
Frank Aiken, who was the Irish foreign minister in the late 1950s, gave a series of speeches and sought U.N. Security -- or U.N. General-Assembly resolutions on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons full stop -- that is, there was no, in his view as he expressed it -- there was no tradeoff between civilian nuclear energy and disarmament and so on. So he was pushing for nonproliferation.
In the then 18-nation disarmament conference, the Soviet Union and the United States started -- this is in the early 1960s -- discussing what were then called general and complete disarmament proposals, which were largely a way of kind of propaganda exchanges. But finally, it got down to the serious business of negotiating a non-proliferation treaty.
The negotiations were caught up by an idea on the U.S. side, which is now long defunct, called the multinational nuclear force -- multilateral --
SOKOLSKI: Lateral. Yes.
LETTOW: Multilateral Nuclear Force, which was a terrible idea whose time took too long.
And one of the consequences of that was that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were at each other's throats for the better part of a decade, whereas they could have been making progress on a nonproliferation treaty.
So anyway, over the course of the negotiations, the countries that were not aligned started pushing for other aspects of the treaty -- a disarmament treaty or section, which is now Article VI and then the infamous Article IV, which is on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
And there was a lot of back and forth at the time -- both explicitly and behind the scenes -- on the role that enrichment and reprocessing should play in this arrangement. And of course, enrichment and reprocessing are the technologies, as I think everyone here knows, that produce both fuel for nuclear reactors, but also the fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
So in the end, the agreement was that several efforts to explicitly include enrichment and reprocessing within the terms of Article IV were rejected. The treaty ended up being purposely vague.
But particularly on the American side on the Atomic Energy Commission and the State Department's Policy Planning staff there was great concern, looking down the road decades hence, that there would be a problem here -- that countries could legally, perhaps under the terms of the NPT, develop enrichment and reprocessing and thereby get close to nuclear weapons capability.
Well, in response to this, there were a variety of proposals in this time period, actually, that relate to regional enrichment facilities, fuel banks, a kind of criteria-based system where the nuclear suppliers would only supply enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries under a certain set of criteria -- most of them including kind of an economic justification.
And one of the recurring themes of this area is that these proposals are now the very ones that we're looking to to strengthen the regime -- even though they're 40, in some case 50 years old in the case of fuel banks.
The reason why it's salient now is that I think the chickens from Article IV have come home to roost; that is, we're now in the case with, particularly Iran, where a country that is a non-nuclear weapons signatory to the treaty looks to be by all accounts developing a weapons capability under the guise of a civilian program.
And the question remains if the combination of Iran and North Korea -- these are two countries who had signed the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states -- are both able to develop a weapons capability, will the regime be seen as weak, and perhaps more importantly, unenforceable? And how do we address those issues?
I know we'll get into the details later of some of these proposals, which are actually quite old in their origins, but that have -- that should be revisited now in terms of criteria-based systems and fuel banks and so on. But I think it's important to understand that this is, in fact, quite an old problem whose negative consequences were understood at the time, but in the way that this in the past sort of 10 or 15 years has become increasingly salient.
SOKOLSKI: Well, Chris, can you amplify at all with regard to specific ideas of how to either add to the rules or reinterpret them? I mean, we've sort of heard that the rules have a bit of a problem. Or are we doing pretty well and maybe we don't have to do very much.
CHRISTOPHER A. FORD: I guess it would be more fun for your audience if I disagreed more with Paul, but I think he's got it quite right in terms of the nature of the problem.
The rules themselves arguably don't have a problem. The problem is in how we see them. I mean, there have developed, in a sense, two schools of thought -- and I'm simplifying very greatly -- but two schools of thought with respect to what Article IV actually means.
The problem is that although the understanding has been very clear for a long time, that there were -- you know, that there were much better and much worse ways to interpret that. And that if, indeed, one did take a kind of rights-based absolutist approach to Article IV, which enabled anyone to have any technology they wished, as long as the IAEA showed up every couple of months and take a look and make sure it was still there, that that was okay.
You know, that kind of view was clearly understood as potentially extremely problematic from the start. On the other hand, that is very much the point of view that is advanced vociferously by to some extent and even -- ever larger chunk of the diplomatic community in NPT fora.
And it's not just the obviously self-interested technology inquisitors such as Iran who are making the point -- and it's actually got a lot of support for it. And even people you would hope might know better are supporting -- or at least saying things that seem supportive of this kind of thing.
Most U.S. officials try to equivocate on the subject as best they can. When I was at the State Department, I tried to nudge us in the other direction, but that was very difficult too. But Rose Gottemoeller, who's now in charge of strategic arms negotiation for the State Department, wrote a piece a few months or maybe a year ago. It came out in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists where she urged the completion of an international agreement to complement the NPT in order to reassert the technology rights set forth in Article IV, but also to make clear that it's not absolutely necessary that countries necessarily exercise them. It's sort of, well, you have those rights, but please don't exercise them right now -- it's you know, in effect, lending credence, further credence, to this sort of legal absolutist view of Article IV that the Iranians and others have put forward.
My point on the rules, I think, is just that it doesn't have to be that way. There has always been a very respectable and legally available counter argument that Article IV is not a bright line per se rule, but in fact reflects the principles with which the international community has always tried to approach. Even before the NPT -- back into the days all the way back to the Acheson-Lilienthal report -- the principles with which the international community has approached nuclear technology sharing all the way along. Namely, it's a good thing to share the benefits that nuclear technology -- whatever they may be -- can provide to mankind and it's very important to do so, but that the nature of the sharing -- that's a sort of general commitment to benefit sharing.
But with respect to specific technologies, the approach has always been in wiser or less-wise ways. And then you can argue about how the details were implemented. But the idea has always been through the NPT and long before it, that specific technology sharing issues should be approached from the perspective of what the proliferation risk is that they entail.
The Acheson-Lilienthal report itself was very clear and the Beirut Plan and the early plans adopted by the UN on that basis were very clear that there were some nuclear technologies that were quote, unquote "dangerous" and some that were quote, unquote "safe." Those that were safe could easily be allowed in national hands.
Actually, in the early days they took a very uncompromising position that dual-use technologies that were facilitators for weapons development even though they also had utility for power generation were things that should be kept out of national hands entirely. Now that's long since, perhaps unfortunately, gone by the bye. But the basic idea there is sound.
Specific technology issues should be approached through the prism of proliferation risk. If it can be shared without undue proliferation risk, then more power to you. Enjoy it. If it can't be shared without significant proliferation risk, then you have no right to such a thing. That is a perfectly legal, available approach. It's always been there in Article IV, and it's one that we simply need to return to.
SOKOLSKI: Okay. Now we've exhausted at least a third of our time, so I want you to exhaust all of it on your answer.
FERGUSON: Thank you, Henry, and I don't disagree with my esteemed colleagues. I think they've all really hit the nail on the head in terms of the nature of the problem. Chris' analysis is spot-on. I think what we don't have yet, and I think it's very important to put this out here near the beginning of the session, is kind of the ground truth in terms of the markets and the industries. I think we need a reality check as to what's actually been going on in terms of the nuclear fuel market, and I'm not saying I know all the answers here, but I just got back from a round-the-world trip. I was around the world in 27 days visiting a variety of countries. I'm writing a book about nuclear energy and where it could be going, so I visited France, Egypt, Jordan and China. And what's fascinating is that, you know, the French are building this state-of-the-art facility in the south of France, it's called Georges (ph) Best 2. They have a collaboration with Euranko.
Euranko is the Dutch-German conglomerate, and they've joined forces with the French and Riva -- the Riva is a big French nuclear industry -- and basically what they're going to do is they're trying to seize a significant portion of the market here. And that's not necessarily a bad thing because if you look at how the French and Riva and Euranko are doing it, they're doing it on an international, multilateral basis. You know, one of the themes of this conference is, you know, I think not to global governance, but multilateralism, how can we use it to good effect.
If you look at the handful, and there are really only a handful of companies that are doing uranium enrichment in the world on a commercial basis, all of them except for one, which is the United States Enrichment Corporation, USEC, in the United States, are all basically government-owned. Well, what that tells me is governments have some leverage here. They have some power. You know, they, in fact, issue licenses for these companies, these facilities to do their business. So I think if you want to establish stronger rules on the market, the enrichment market, I think you need to just get those handful of countries involved who are actually doing this business. And that's point one.
I think two is a recognition that these companies are doing their business quite well and they're making money off of this, and I think, you know, they could probably drive out of business any upstarts. So I think, you know, when Iran or a couple of other, you know, countries like Brazil say, well, we're doing uranium enrichment because this is going to pay off for us economically, well, they have a huge mountain to climb in terms of the competition with these existing huge companies that are already doing this business. So I think, you know, one thing we could do is leverage the power of the market to kind of drive these other guys out of business. So then what legs do Iran and Brazil have left to stand on?
Well, they can say, well, this is about energy independence. You know, it's national pride or, maybe in the case of Iran, you know, nuclear weapons hedge. But you know, I think the economic argument I think we can hit head-on. I mean, I think the legal interpretation that Paul puts forward and Chris, I think is good, and I think it's a good backstop, but I think, you know, we need to understand how the market's working.
SOKOLSKI: Well, that leads us to the next question, which I think you can lead on, as well. You know, reactors produce electricity, but they've been connected to the grid in many countries, including Russia, the U.S., France, Great Britain, India and Pakistan, and been used at the same time, at least early on -- and in some cases still -- to produce weapons material.
Also, the track record in finding covert fuel-making plants -- very checkered. Actually, Goldschmidt, who ran the safeguards department -- very clear. He said don't count on us in every instance to find these things. That's why the IAEA tries to make sure that it can keep track of what's going on at these reactors. So here's a question. How clear is the economic imperative to build additional power plants in developing states, in the Middle East, in the U.S. and in Europe? And should the U.S. join, as I think Putin and Bush urged back in 2007, in internationalizing the subsidization through developmental banks of construction of more of these plants?
Should it matter to the way we read the nuclear rules, which talks about benefits, what these things cost and whether they can compete economically against non-nuclear alternatives? Does that matter or not? You should take the lead on that.
FERGUSON: Well, Henry, yeah, it does matter and I think it's the recognition, it's in the U.S. law, as a matter of fact. I think it was the 1978 Nuclear Nonproliferation Act that -- you know, I think John Glenn was one of the major sponsors of when he was in the Senate, and I think it was Article V or Title V of that Act that says that, you know, the U.S. president should be required to have a report written -- you know, countries that want nuclear power, they, you know, they should have access to that, but it should be done in a way where you basically do a systems analysis looking at their energy needs and try to figure out whether there are also non-nuclear alternatives that can meet their energy security and other energy needs.
And it's not that we should just be pushing nuclear power and, basically, you know, I'm for more nuclear power in the world -- that's all well and good. But what I see -- and I mentioned I just got back from this conference in China. It was a major international conference in Beijing a couple of weeks ago, this interministerial conference. And the funny thing is that only 28 energy ministers showed up; you know, almost 200 countries in the world, and like 28 energy ministers felt they, you know, could spare the time to show up at this conference. And at the end of the conference they had a session saying, you know, what could we have done better?
Someone said, "Couldn't we have gotten more energy ministers here?" And I whispered to a journalist friend of mine, Mark Hibbs, and I said, "Mark, what we really need is not just a conference solely focused on nuclear energy, we need a conference, kind of a world energy conference where you're looking at all the energy options and having these energy ministers and their staff really think through the decision process about really what makes sense for their own country, case-by-case basis.
We don't have that in the world. If you look at the IEA, the International Energy Agency, it's -- you know, it doesn't include all the countries in the world. We don't really have that body. I think, you know, if you think about the session last night that Stewart Patrick was chairing, if you wanted to add onto -- and someone asked a very good question about what additional international body maybe do we need.
And I think we need one that's kind of like a world energy agency to really help perform these kind of assessments for countries because we have a body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that is promoting nuclear energy and also safeguarding nuclear energy. It had this dual-hatted mission, so I think we need to do a better systems analysis of the whole energy picture and then we have a better sense of what are the economic forces in play.
And, you know, Paul and I were talking last night and -- look, it's a fact that governments around the world are subsidizing various energy industries. You know, it's sort of a fact of life, but at least I learned from Henry is let's at least expose what are these subsidies and as much as possible try to factor in the external costs of an energy choice, you know, especially like the environmental effects into the internal price of the energy system and then you can begin to use market forces to try to, you know, level the playing field for all these energy systems.
SOKOLSKI: Additional comments?
FORD: I think the issue of benefits is extremely important, not necessarily as a matter of international treaty law. I mean, the preamble of the NPT does talk about -- it explicitly references the principle that the benefits of nuclear technology should be made available to all states party (ph). U.S. law, it may be legally important. I don't know necessarily that it's important in terms of treaty interpretation, but it's certainly important substantively. And particularly if anyone is to -- you know, if I were to come to the international community and ask it to bear even the slightest proliferation risk to global stability in return for me, you know, getting cooperation in some certain type of technology, surely it stands to reason that I would need to make a case that there's a real need for such a thing. I mean, if it were proliferation harmless, then who cares. Have fun, Chris, you know, but that's not the point at all.
These things are not necessarily proliferation harmless and I share the growing concern that I sense in the expert community about even things as, you know, as reputedly traditionally harmless as light water reactors. You know, there's a reason that those things are still subject to safeguards. I mean, there is no -- you know, there is virtually no nuclear technology that's entirely harmless and, therefore, you're necessarily in the business of having to consider the compellingness of the economic case for such technology because only if there's a really compelling economic case in the first place can you even -- should you even begin to have the discussion about whether it's worthwhile to bear any risk. So I think benefits are absolutely crucial.
The paradigmatic case of this -- and it's kind of an amusing one because it seems so silly in hindsight -- but is the case of peaceful nuclear explosions. And Henry's colleagues at NPEC have written on this as well, but it's really sort of a strange but funny story. It was thought for many years, as many of you might recall, that nuclear explosive devices might actually have very great economic benefit. You want to, you know, build a reservoir and carve out, you know, or move a mountain from here to, you know, to level a mountain or, you know, giant excavation projects for some purpose.
Now the Soviets first -- I think were the first to raise this and they did it at a time when it was clearly cover for their own nuclear weapons aspirations, but it was an idea that was picked up by a number of countries, not all of whom, I think, were using it just as an excuse for weapons ambitions. And it was thought for a while, at least, that there was a plausible case for economic benefits from so-called PNEs, peaceful nuclear explosions. There was a lot of debate about that during the negotiations in the NDC, the 18 nation Disarmament Commission that drafted the treaty. And what they ended up doing was deciding upon what I think, in retrospect, is a very sensible principled solution even though it reads a little strangely in Article V.
The basic idea was, you know, look, we understand that it is thought that there is benefit to this and we don't want to deny countries the benefit that might be available from peaceful nuclear explosions. On the other hand, it is perfectly obvious -- and of course this was never said explicitly -- but it's perfectly obvious that there's no way on earth to share this technology without making complete nonsense of the nonproliferation project. So what they did in Article V is they wrote in what is in a sense a service provision clause into the NPT. There is a right to the benefits, in effect, of peaceful nuclear explosions. There is no right to the technology of peaceful nuclear explosions.
Therefore, the system that was written into Article V was to make provision for some kind of international agreement whereby the weapons states, the authorized weapons possessors states, if you will, would in effect be able to provide PNEs to countries that need such things on a sort of service provider basis. So you can't have the technology, but if you really want the benefits, and if it makes sense, then I will do it for you.
Now it's telling, in retrospect, that no one has ever requested this. In hindsight, the economic benefit so-called, is probably entirely illusory or at least any potential benefit was far outweighed by the costs of having set off a nuclear explosion in your country. So, you know, the substantive basis for this entirely evaporated, but I think the principle behind how the drafters of the NPT addressed this is spot-on and it goes right to the point that I was making before.
We need to think in terms of benefit and technology as different questions. Sharing benefits does not necessarily imply sharing technology and the distinction should appear -- you should control the movement between those two categories on the basis of proliferation risk. Technology should not be shared if it is risky and benefits should be shared wherever possible, but it may be necessary to think up interesting ways to do that that don't involve sharing access to the actual technologies of doing something in the first place. That's a principle that I think can be applied much more broadly beyond just the issue of PNEs, but peaceful nuclear explosions are the most crystalline example of where -- you know, the polar example of how that principle already works in the structure of the NPT.
LETTOW: Henry, very briefly. I'd like to tie it back to the conversation we had here last night, that Stewart led, I think very fruitfully and productively. And Nick Burns made an interesting comment about the non-proliferation regime at large, which is that here's almost, like, quintessential example of post-war institutions of which this is one generation later; it's Atoms for Peace in the 50s and then the NPT regime in the 60s. And we have truly international institutions that are built up from this, of which the IAEA is the clearest example, which serve extremely useful purposes and in many cases do it well, but there are also areas where there are significant gaps and where other institutions that are less formalized and less international may have to play a role.
Now, it's very difficult in this context probably above all because of -- because of two dilemmas that are at the heart of the NPT and have played out over time, and one is the difference between intentions and capabilities, and the second is the rather stark difference between the haves and the have-nots.
And this ties back to the economic question because one of the main proposals now for preventing the dangerous spread of enrichment and reprocessing and other technologies is this criteria-based system that France initially proposed in 2004 to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and that the U.S. reproposed or -- or came on board to last year. And one of the key criteria is does the country seeking enrichment and reprocessing technologies have a kind of viable economic justification.
Iran is a classic example of a country that does not, but there are many -- there are many countries that -- that in good faith think they may. And here in the NSG and other contexts the United States and other countries face -- face a difficult time because there are plenty of countries now that have enrichment and reprocessing that have the capabilities, and their intentions by most accounts are perfectly sound. There are other countries, Canada and Australia, who have significant uranium deposits and wanted to get vertically into the business of enrichment.
I mean, it's hard to imagine that -- that either Canada or Australia would be a significant proliferation risk. But there is -- there is a real question -- how do you draw the line in some kind of country-neutral way, and that's where this economic justification element comes into it. So that under those circumstances a country like -- obviously, Canada or Australia presumably would qualify but a country like -- like Iran may not.
Now, to make it even more complicated and I believe, as Henry mentioned, there is -- there's an additional question, which is it's all well and good to have these kind of very finely sliced distinctions, even if they are country neutral.
The problem then becomes who judges them and how do we enforce them. And this has been a constant problem in the nonproliferation world since the -- since the dawn of nuclear weapons. And that will be one of the issues which I'm sure we'll talk about later that is absolutely crucial in the enforcement, and do we have -- have the systems that are -- that are longstanding and truly international -- the IAEA, its board of governors, the U.N. Security Council -- have they been up to now and will they prove to be fully effective in enforcement, and if not, where do we look in a way that generates legitimacy internationally.
SOKOLSKI: Okay. Now, this love fest has to stop -- (laughter) -- so I thought I'd talk about India. Two of you are heavily implicated. (Laughter.) You were in the Bush administration. And it's an interesting problem. I know this -- the Council struggled with this. Charles wrote a piece with Mr. Levy, who's here -- Michael. Let me ask the question.
We ended up backing -- allowing India access to controlled nuclear goods even though it never signed the NPT and even though the NPT clearly states that under Article I the U.S., Russia and France -- weapon states -- are not supposed to help any country that didn't have a nuclear weapon by 1967 get more bombs or get any bombs.
You know, critics have noted that the uranium that we give the -- the Indians for their reactors for power just displaces scarce domestic uranium resources so they can make more bombs. Now, we don't know that they've yet done that. It's early in the game. The question is since the law says in the U.S. we cannot violate Article I of the NPT -- and the Hyde Act even goes into this even further which enabled this deal to come into being -- how do we administer this deal without undermining this Article I provision? Any thoughts? Yes?
FERGUSON: Well, Henry, if I were allowed to show a PowerPoint I could have showed my little stock and flow diagram I did on the train yesterday but -- showing that I'm a technical guy. But really, how did we get into this pickle? How did India get into this pickle? Well, it goes back to Chris Ford's remarks about PNEs -- peaceful nuclear explosives. Back in 1974, India, Indira Gandhi ordered a peaceful nuclear explosion saying, well, you know, it was a PNE -- you know, it's not a real weapon.
Well, come on. It didn't pass the laugh test. And what happened was that the U.S. and like-minded states responded. They formed an international institution called the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG for short. And I guess it was left with 44 or 45 countries we now have in the NSG. So they established a set of guidelines saying -- and the guidelines were made more rigorous in 1992 -- saying that if you don't have full-scope safeguards on your nuclear program -- all your nuclear program, then you will be denied access to this, you know, commercial market.
So, you know, India was under denial because it had obviously -- it never joined the NPT and obviously developed nuclear weapons and had a few facilities under specific safeguards called INFCIRC/66 type safeguards, and so then India was denied shipments of uranium for fuel from outside sources. And that wouldn't have been so bad if India had its own sources of uranium, which they do but they're very minimal. And, you know, Homi Bhabha -- Dr. Bhabha saw this many, many years ago when he had a three-stage program for India, developed Reader reactors, used plutonium, and they're not there yet. Still a long way from that.
So they're stuck with trying to use a very limited stockpile of indigenous uranium. Well, they were running short of that for a variety of reasons, and I'll get into that later if you're interested. But the point is India had to make a choice whether to keep fueling their plutonium production reactors, you know, full bore, that make plutonium for weapons from their indigenous uranium or to short those production reactors and to keep their commercial power reactors more or less fully fueled or more fueled than they would if they were using up uranium for plutonium production.
Guess what choice they made? To keep their plutonium production reactors going at maximum capacity. And this is without the deal. So, you know, we know what India was up to. They were in an arms race with Pakistan, obviously. So --
SOKOLSKI: Or China.
FERGUSON: Or -- and China. Okay. So here comes -- so they said oh, gee, you know, we're now running our power reactors at 50 percent capacity and they said, we had these electricity shortages, and they still don't want to sacrifice plutonium production. So what do they do? They go and ask the Bush administration, can you help us? Can we carve out an exception and Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines for India -- we're a special country -- can -- so we can get access to outside uranium supplies. And, in essence, that's -- that's what's happened.
But along the way we did not strengthen the rules or the guidelines. So I think in order to live up to Article I -- I think Henry's really posed the question very well here -- is that minimally we should've gotten an agreement with India so they do not produce more plutonium than they were producing prior to the deal. So if we see them making more plutonium production reactors, we see them using, you know, freed-up indigenous uranium to make highly-enriched uranium for bombs, that's clearly, in my view, a violation of Article I. And we have abetted that.
I think a maximal position in Article I that -- to shore it up is to get India to agree to a fissile material cutoff. But that's not going to happen unless you can get some kind of regional agreement with China and Pakistan and India to bring that about because China has not officially declared the end of fissile material production. Pakistan is still producing fissile material for weapons. They brought up a plutonium production reactor basically the same week that the House of Representatives was voting on the Hyde Act to support the India deal.
So there you have it -- proof positive that the arms race is going on full -- in full bore in South Asia. So I think that's what we're going to have to do. And President Obama, to his credit, in his Prague speech in early April said he's going to push for a fissile material cutoff treaty. In our task force report we're not actually so keen on the fissile material cutoff treaty. And so, you know, Stewart last night, you got the question on your panel are there any, you know, moribund twitching corpses of organizations out there, and the conference on disarmament in Geneva, I'm sorry to say. (Scattered laughter.)
I mean, it's -- it's a -- it's a great -- you know, it's a nice talk shop and it's a great place to have meetings. I've been to Geneva. I haven't been to the CD. You know, I've been to meetings in UNIDIR and -- but what has it really accomplished? If you look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, it was -- it was just a dead letter in the CD, and it took the U.N. General Assembly to really free up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
So, you know, what we recommend in our task force report is a couple of things. One, have the president of the United States call for a global moratorium in fissile material production. Let's be honest. It's not -- you know, President Obama says that it's not that oh, India and Pakistan and China said oh, okay, President Obama asked us to do this, we're going to stop. Of course not.
But at least it'll help apply some leverage, especially going into the NPT review conference May of next year here in New York. And secondly, try to find a parallel process to the CD involving the countries that really matter on fissile material production -- China, India and Pakistan. We need to get them, you know, working on this to see if it's possible to reach an agreement on cutting production.
FORD: Well, I am not the greatest fan -- although I spent a fair amount of time in the diplomatic saddle defending it, I'm not the greatest fan of the India deal. However, I don't share the -- the degree of concern that you, Henry, seem to have, and you, Charles, about specifically Article I problems. I think it's interesting -- by Charles' account, they are already going full bore with their plutonium production for weapons anyway. So the -- the -- you know, the in -- unalterable decision of Indian policy one way or the other seems to be to keep the weapons program going. Therefore, what was going to come out short was the civilian power production. So in a sense, by meeting that shortage it doesn't actually change what they're doing in their weapons program.
FERGUSON: It frees up the uranium though. They could then have -- bore uranium for more weapons production.
FORD: Well, by your account, they're already going full bore anyway. But I guess what I'm trying to say also is --
FERGUSON: They could go even greater bore or they could go --
FORD: Article -- Article IV reference -- or excuse me, Article I references -- you know, it talks about issues related to transfer of control in nuclear weapons themselves. What is not clear in the text or the negotiating history is how attenuated the drafters intended to make its -- its provisions. I mean, you could make the argument -- I mean, I worry a little bit about -- and I've said this to Henry before -- he doesn't agree with me at all -- but I worry a little bit about these sort of fungible uranium arguments in the sense that anything that helped India meet any of its -- of civilian energy needs arguably frees up uranium for use in the weapons program -- if we sell them, you know, oil -- not we but someone sells them oil or we sell them, you know, compact fluorescent light bulbs or -- or wind turbines or something.
I mean, it's not quite clear to me exactly where one should draw the line in terms of what this freeing up effect actually does. So -- but I'm not super worried about the Article I problem. I think there are problems with the India deal with respect to its message. It's sort of the demonstration effect of what is interpreted at least as forgiving India for what the nonproliferation community regards as the great sin of never having signed the NPT and having developed weapons outside of it by abusing Atoms for Peace technology.
That I'm more concerned about than Article I specifically. But even there I must say that I think the demonstration effect -- the message sent to future would-be proliferators with regard to how we treat a country that exploded its first device before the NSG even existed and a country that never -- actually, in a sense, had the honesty never to sign the NPT in the first place and therefore didn't break any rules by having a nuclear weapon in that regard -- the message effect of how we deal with India in that context is probably less damaging than the message effect that we send every day that violators within the treaty -- countries like North Korea that violated the treaty before, then withdrew from the treaty before conducting their test -- or countries like Iran which had been flouting the nonproliferation obligations and defying the Security Council from within the NPT regime, I think the message effect of how we fail to address those problems is much more damaging than anything to do with the NSG exception with India.
LETTOW: I'll be very, very brief on this point. First of all, we have at least one true expert on -- on India here so I'm -- I'm loathe to get too far into details. But I think, again, this points to, as Chris alluded, one of the key problems of the current regime -- not only do we have the obvious disparity between the haves and haves not -- have-nots within the regime but there are three countries that lie entirely with -- outside of the regime and always have, and how do you best deal with these countries.
You know, one of them in particular has been a source of -- of considerable proliferation concern, and India is a case where the -- the Bush administration made the decision that, you know, carving out this one exception is outweighed by, in some senses, bringing India in to some extent to -- to the regime as a whole and -- and India being a country that -- that is not of kind of immediate proliferation concern and it doesn't have the record that some others do.
So it's a tradeoff, very difficult decision, and -- but I agree with Chris that it does -- it does obviously pose a -- an exception problem to a regime where we want rules to stick whatever else the benefits may be. One final note is we had -- one of last night's speakers was one of the truly instrumental figures in the India nuclear deal and there's one of my colleagues at CFR, Evan Feigenbaum, who's based in D.C. also has -- has been heavily involved. So they -- I commend you to them for -- for further details on.
SOKOLSKI: Well, I was going to try to get into the comprehensive test ban but no one would get a chance to get a question in edgewise. There, this mild disagreement would probably flair up even higher. So I'm disappointed. I think we better open it up to the floor or we won't have any questions.
FORD: There's no reason we can't take questions about CTBT.
FERGUSON: That's right.
SOKOLSKI: Well, there's the --
FERGUSON: -- question.
SOKOLSKI: By -- by the way, I -- I hope someone will ask how you might use a fluorescent light bulb to make a bomb. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. Dick Garwin. Well, it's going to take a lot of (washing ?) before people can come to the table with economic justification for nuclear power. (Laughter.) But I have a real question. We've been talking around the -- the problem. Every nation has a right to nuclear weapons unless they give it away, and they have given it away, almost all of them, in the non -- NPT.
What we need, it seems to me, is an -- a further additional protocol that materials or facilities acquired as a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT have to be destroyed or given back if a nation leaves the NPT. This is a major change. How can we persuade nations to do that voluntarily, perhaps by using force against some who are either outside or have violated the NPT?
FERGUSON: Yeah, that -- Dick, it's a great question. In fact, we have that recommendation -- recommendation very similar to that in the CFR task force report on nuclear weapons policy, and a number of members of the task force felt very strongly that view that we needed to correct what was perceived as a weakness in Article X of the NPT, the withdrawal clause -- you know, allowing a country the -- with 90 days notice to leave the treaty. And really, there are two (class of states ?) of concern here. There's one that is -- appears to be in compliance with the safeguards commitment and then leaves the treaty, and then there's another class that's not in compliance and -- with the safeguards commitment and then leave the treaty.
So far we've -- we only had one state, North Korea, who was a member of the NPT and then left, and they were clearly not in compliance. But I -- I totally agree with your view on this and I think we have in some forums coming up where we can press this. We have the review conference next year and we can use the -- the U.N. Security Council. But I think you're also correct it's going to be very, very difficult to enforce this. I'm kind of curious what -- Paul had some ideas on that.
LETTOW: It is a terrific and timely question and it's one we're actually -- there -- there is real hope here, I think. Pierre Gochman (sp) has an interesting idea, which is a generic non country-specific Security Council resolution in advance of any situation of withdrawal that says here -- here would be the following consequences for withdrawal under certain circumstances.
So, for example, if a country withdraws from the NPT and has received foreign assistance which -- which most have -- I mean, it's obviously an international market -- then that equipment or technology or materials must be frozen and returned. Now, there's obviously an enforcement problem here. But -- but that kind of rule that exists in advance of a crisis -- of a potential crisis -- has both the deterrence effect and then -- and then potentially an actual use effect in the event.
The other proposal that's in play is -- and this would obviously be more controversial -- if a country withdraws and is not in compliance with its safeguards and other NPT obligations that it would automatically be considered a threat to international security. Now, obviously, can you get something like that through the Security Council even as a generic resolution, we don't know. But -- but I think actually the -- these proposals are useful both if it -- if it comes to the event in an enforcement case but also as a deterrence mechanism and -- and to point to the seriousness of -- of countries with respect to the regime.
FORD: I share the enthusiasm for the idea of return in the event of -- particularly in the event of violation and then withdrawal. It's a more interesting question in the context of -- of compliance and then withdrawal. One can imagine, indeed, as a withdrawal provision it's obviously quite lawful in a treaty itself and you might imagine that there are circumstances in which you probably wouldn't be too -- I mean, I might be sort of sympathetic. You can create circumstances in which it might be reasonable to withdraw in response to certain types of provocation.
But for -- but for the most part I like the idea of return very much. It's actually one that Henry and I have been discussing for quite a few years now, back -- going back to when I was on the Hill and that I managed to cajole the Bush administration into raising publicly in connection with the NPT process in 2007 and 2008. I like the idea very much.
There may be additional things one could do. I mean, I think encouraging the IAEA, for example, to -- to modify its -- getting the IAEA to modify its safeguards obligations. It's currently understood that -- it's believed, at least, although the phrasing is a little bit ambiguous, that the INFCIRC-153 safeguards agreements -- the basic comprehensive safeguards agreements that essentially all countries get -- all NPT-member states, I should say, get with the IAEA lapse upon withdrawal from the treaty.
There are other types of safeguard provisions that do not lapse upon withdrawal. INFCIRC/66 agreements, for example, essentially go until they are explicitly terminated by either party -- interestingly North Korea has an INFCIRC/66 agreement with respect to -- its research reactor? (Off mike consultation.)
FERGUSON: That's right.
FORD: Now, the IAEA doesn't -- you know, there's a far cry between having one and being able to actually go and implement it -- it's provisions, mind you. But, I would think that 153 agreements should be generically modified so as to provide for the non-termination upon withdrawal. So that, at least, if you're out of the treaty there's an obligation that persists for inspectors to still be crawling all over you. And you can do the same thing with the additional protocol, for that matter, I suppose.
So there may be things that you could do. Suppliers could put these things into contracts. Now, are countries going to necessarily care? If I were going to withdraw from the treaty and try to make a bomb, do I care that, you know, the Westinghouse Company has a clause that says that I have to give back their widgets? Well, maybe I wouldn't care, but it's -- at least it's another thing on the scale. It might help complicate the life of someone contemplating bad choices. But, you know, there are many things I think that you could and should do, and I support the idea very much.
QUESTIONER: Jamie Rubin.
In terms of drivers to change international attitudes towards nuclear energy, the one thing you all haven't mentioned was climate. And, for a non-expert reader, it seems to me there is a view that there is a renaissance in China and India on the grounds of climate.
And to what extent do you believe that the change in the liberal community towards pro-nuclear on the grounds of climate is a new driver towards nuclear energy? Is it real? Is it something that you worry about? Or is it something that can be fixed or dismissed?
SOKOLSKI: Well Charles, why don't you lead --
FERGUSON: Yeah, I just got back from China and it's incredible what's going in the nuclear field. But, you know, I don't really see strong evidence that it's climate change that's really driving the Chinese government and -- to go more pro-nuclear.
I think if you look at their coal sector, they're using huge amounts of coal. And they do have a lot of coal but it's -- you know, 80 percent or more of their electricity is from coal. And they're running into problems in rail delivery of coal -- if there is, you know, bad weather, you know, during the wintertime, trying to fuel these coal plants to maximum capacity. They're running into serious problems.
So, what as funny was, you know, the end of last year, when the economic crisis really, you know, started to hit us big time, and the rest of the world, and we were -- our tendency was just to pull back and not invest in some, you know, big power projects, the Chinese government said, "No. We've done the analysis. This is our opportunity" -- you know, they're sitting on a huge pile of money as it is anyway in these state-owned enterprises in their nuclear industry.
So they said, "We're going to try to shift" -- and they're still using a lot of coal, and they're going to use a lot of coal for decades to come, but they've made this decision to try to alleviate some of the pressure on the coal sector by building more nuclear power plants.
So I don't think it's really so much the concern about greenhouse gases and the atmosphere, because the Chinese don't have any requirement to, you know, control their greenhouse gasses anyway. They think maybe in the future they might, so they're anticipating that perhaps. But, I think, right now the immediate pressure on them is, you know, the coal sector and trying nuclear as a substitution.
And, you know, I'm skeptical about this whole idea of a nuclear renaissance because, you know, if we look at East Asia in particular, there hasn't really been a slacking off or slowing down so much. They've been kind of steadily, the Japanese, the Koreans, Republic of Korea, and in Taiwan, and in China and even, to a limited extent, India -- they've all been kind of plugging away. And now it's been sort of ramping up, certainly in China, in nuclear power.
But a renaissance is a case where you've gone into some kind of "dark ages," and then you've reemerged and going at something in a strong way. And we're not there yet in the United States. So perhaps we might have a renaissance or a re-flowering of nuclear power in the next decade, but we really can't -- we still have -- the huge problem to deal with is how to finance these plants; you know, we don't have these state-owned enterprises or utilities, a relatively small cap.
And so a utility company is really risk-averse, to risk more than 10 percent of its market capitalization on any one project. And you look at these nuclear power plants costing anywhere, you know, from 5 billion (dollars) to $9 billion. And if you look at the market cap of these typical utility is, you know, maybe on the order of anywhere from 15 billion (dollars) maybe up to 28 billion (dollars). And so right there they, sort of, violate that 10 percent rule.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- in Europe?
FERGUSON: Well, even in Europe. I mean, Europe is a mixed bag. Last summer I spent some time traveling throughout Europe talking to various officials about their views on nuclear power.
You know, France, you know, it's a state-owned enterprise -- you know, EDF, Areva, you know, they're state-owned companies. And so it's easier for them to push through the decision and get the financing to build all those power plants. So they're kind of an exception. And it's interesting that EDF bought out British Energy, so maybe the Brits are going to go the way of the French, because the French are going to be controlling a significant part of their electricity sector.
And, you know, the Scandinavians and the Finns, they're kind of, you know, all over the map in terms of their views. The Germans are ambivalent as well. They have 30 percent of their power from electricity. They still have, you know, the socialist Green government restrictions on nuclear power, to phase out nuclear power plants. Maybe Merkel will eventually change that -- probably not, because of the nature of the coalition politics.
East Europe would love -- you know, people in Eastern Europe, by and large, are very pro-nuclear. They would like to have more nuclear power plants, but the problem there is money. How are they going to finance these things?
And also the Middle East, I traveled through the Middle East last year and I mentioned this a month ago. And, once again, I think it's the financing and also the political environment. You know, it slows down, you know, the development of these big power projects.
SOKOLSKI: Okay, short, because we've got four other questions.
LETTOW: Yeah, extremely briefly.
Charles didn't mention it, but he authored a comprehensive report two years ago now on the spread of nuclear energy, which I think is an excellent overview of where we stand; and Sharon Squassoni recently did at Carnegie. And my understanding of those reports is essentially that nuclear energy can potentially play a very important role in mitigating climate change, but it's not a silver bullet. I mean, it has to be one of a larger portfolio.
And then, very briefly on Dr. Garwin's question on, kind of, Article X, or withdrawal initiatives. We haven't mentioned the Prague speech. I'm sure we will. But, I think it's important to note that from the administration -- the Obama administration's point of view, each of the initiatives that Obama spelled out the administration is approaching on its own merits, but also as a way of generating support and leverage for some of these more controversial ideas that we've been discussing here.
I think the Article X initiative is one. But I think we'll see it. I know, from talking to friends in the administration that they will be taking that issue up at next year's (FTRP ?) conference in Seoul.
FORD: Just, very quickly. I would characterize the impact of climate change issues a little bit differently in the sense I think there is a very real perception out there -- and one can debate these things I'm sure -- but there's a perception that nuclear energy is, indeed, a climate friendly way to pursue energy development. That perception, I don't suspect is a massive driver in terms of why countries are seeking to expand or to acquire nuclear energy development in the first place.
On the other hand, I do think it is affecting the, sort of, the balance of power, if you will, politically, in supplier countries in -- particularly in the developed West, with regard to lessening the resistance to nuclear power development. It is, you know, quite awkwardly and painfully dividing the previously monolithically anti-nuclear "green" communities, for example, with regard to this kind of thing.
That's not the same thing as it being an engine for nuclear development, but it is lessening the resistance in many quarters, and I think that may have its own indirect effect.
SOKOLSKI: We need to talk afterwards. I can get you in touch with some very interesting analysis. But I won't belabor it now.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Baldaas (sp), from Kilex (sp) Advisers.
I wanted to go back to a point that you made, Chris, about the enforcement part of it that is more worrisome is the fact that folks who have signed onto the norms, and are in infraction of it, and don't seem to be being brought to the book, whether you talk about North Korea or you talk about Iran, as compared to folks who may have stayed out of it, on a principle basis, from the beginning.
It seems to me that we need to be focused a lot on the enforcement side, because even folks -- if you divide it down the line between nuclear and peaceful -- military and peaceful leaders, even folks outside who use it outside the NPT -- who pursue peaceful purposes, and find it not to their advantage to pursue the military options, it really will flow from how effective the enforcement regime is, with respect to what's visited on those who subscribe to it, and yet are infraction of it.
I think that we have a fundamental enforcement problem. And we've had it on a persistent basis. It doesn't seem to be going away. And that needs to be addressed and addressed beyond just the technicalities, and demonstrated, and in some respects, a forceful manner. So, I would appreciate your comments.
SOKOLSKI: Why don't we do the following: Given that we have five minutes -- perhaps 10 at the most, why don't we take at least one other question and start pairing them up.
QUESTIONER: Herbert Levin (sp).
As I was listening with great interest to what was said, I kept trying to figure out, well, what's the role for the U.S. in these situations? It would, sort of, be nice if that happened, or this could be tried. What would the U.S. do?
And, very briefly, I thought back when the Indians had their explosion and Moynihan came back and gave his briefing. And on the blackboard he had a bullock cart with a thing labeled "bomb" in the back, and then a tripod and guys in (Ndoti ?) digging a hole to put it in. And he basically said, "Well, so they had an explosion. So, what? They can't do anything with this," and everyone should relax.
Well, he was a very intelligent man but he was wrong there. The point is, there was a U.S. assessment of contempt for the capabilities of the rest of the world, so we didn't have to worry about it. So, you had a kind of a basic error there, and the predictions of people that the Pakistanis would certainly have to match this were ignored because they were even less competent than the Indians.
So there are the -- some mistakes there.
Now, then you go to -- and I know some people will smile, the U.S. had great success in talking the Argentinians, the Brazilians and the South Africans out of building nukecs. People would smile now, but they were really committed and they were going forward on it. So, the U.S. had a proper role and was effective there.
And who remembers the Treaty of Tlatelolco where you had a regional arrangement, which put this back in the bottle. So the observation now is if you look at the two threats -- North Korea and Iran, both former and present NPT members -- you had a regime, you had a basis for arguing with them. You had an approach. And the U.S. politely sat on its hands. It did nothing. (ACTA ?) was abolished.
Is the U.S. going to get back into the game in order to further any of the noble schemes that you gentlemen have put forward?
SOKOLSKI: Okay, I think each of you should think about your swan song as you answer. What time do we have?
LETTOW: Five minutes.
SOKOLSKI: We have five minutes?
FERUGSON: Seven minutes. Six -- seven minutes. (Scattered laughter.)
SOKOLSKI: It's growing with each count. (Laughter.)
Perhaps each of you should take some time, not only to answer the questions but to round out what you think is important. Particularly think, if you can, if there is one idea you have that would make things better with regard to these rules, since that, after all, was our tasking.
FORD: Can I start?
SOKOLSKI: Well, there you go.
FORD: I think, in some ways, both these questions are different angles on the same challenge, and they point to this -- that the primacy of nonproliferation is the animating idea behind the entire system and the importance of not losing sight of that animating idea.
There are other things the regime deals with and speaks to, and they're very important things. I don't want to dismiss the sort of hortatory exhortations in the NPT with regard to disarmament. They're extremely important. And the long-term goal that all states' parties have committed themselves to in that regard is very important -- peaceful use, sharing of benefits -- extremely important. The parties have committed themselves to those things.
But, you can't -- I think both these questions point to what I think is the fundamental truth, and that is that you can't get away from the fact that the Nonproliferation Treaty is, surprisingly enough, about nonproliferation. And the regime makes no sense unless you keep that animating ideal in mind.
We do have a very tremendous enforcement problem, and the international community has a miserable track record of late. Okay, that's not quite fair. Some things have been done, but they've been done in ways that the regime officially doesn't approve of that much. I mean, the Libyan and Iraqi programs no longer exist. That's true. That's good. We should be thankful for that.
Now, people don't like how that was necessarily done. The Iranian enrichment effort, which began as part of a weapons program, continues. The North Korean programs continue. Their defiance of the international community, in many respects, continues. You know, even if you count up -- which I would -- count Libya and Iraq as successes for the nonproliferation regime, broadly conceived -- not just the treaty specifically -- you know, the international community cannot afford to have a, you know, a 50 percent track record in fighting nuclear weapons proliferation. That's not acceptable over time.
So, you know, we clearly have undone work in meeting the enforcement challenge. And everything else piggybacks on that. If you can't enforce the rules of the existing regime, and keeping new people out of the nuclear weapons business, you can forget about all those nice words about disarmament -- you know, the foundation for that is nonproliferation.
Sharing nuclear technology and the benefits at least thereof, is a tremendous idea. But if you can't keep technology from being misused you can forget about expanding or continuing sharing regimes. Everything rides on the backbone of nonproliferation as the animating ideal of the system.
But I would disagree with the idea that the U.S. has been -- hasn't been sufficiently interested in nonproliferation. I've spent a lot of time at NPT preparatory committee meetings being told that there was something offensive about our efforts in the administration to focus the process upon nonproliferation above all else. We were told, all these other things, they're all three co-equal portions of the treaty, and you need to make sure that you're addressing this and that, as well as nonproliferation.
The U.S. has not been insufficiently attentive. It may need to do more, which is always perhaps the case. But I think the key point to make is that you cannot escape the need to circle back to this animating, fundamental ideal of preventing the further spread of these weapons. And if you can't do that, the rest of this is just an academic exercise.
SOKOLSKI: Charles has to speak, or we'll have an explosion here. (Laughter.)
FERGUSON: No, no, no. I think -- here's where -- you wanted sparks to fly, Henry, here's where I -- I disagree with Chris, with all due respect. I mean, there are three equal legs here. It's -- yeah, nonproliferation is important, but you have to also be supportive of -- at least the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and, as Article IV said, a treaty on general, complete disarmament.
And yeah, we may not know what geopolitical conditions are needed for that, but the president of the United States gets it. That why he said in his Prague speech, that Paul mentioned, on April 5th that, you know, we need to have -- we need to support that vision of a nuclear weapons free world while maintaining a safe and secure and reliable nuclear arsenal to deter the use of other nuclear weapons.
FORD: I said the same things.
FERGUSON: I know you -- I know you have, but the way -- what I just heard you say, and maybe I'm mistaken here, but you put so much emphasis on the nonproliferation leg. And when other countries hear that they say, "here we go again." How can we sustain that kind of system -- in which the United States just refuses to get serious about disarmament? And it's all about, you know, denying, you know, nukes to other guys, which I'm -- you know, I want to do that. But, I think eventually a system --
FORD: If you can't do that --
FERGUSON: -- is going to break down --
FORD: -- how can you ask people to give up what they have? If you can't be sure that others won't be getting into the game, how can you, in good faith, tell anyone who possesses them today that it's safe to get rid of them?
I mean, these things -- I'm not -- I'm not not-committed to disarmament. I actually spoke in -- I managed to brow-beat my colleagues in the Bush administration to saying more about disarmament than they had for many, many years. But I just -- I can't get around the fact that if you can't maintain nonproliferation rules it's hopeless to expect to be able to have success with getting rid of existing weapons and keeping them away.
FERGUSON: And the other area I just have -- I have to disagree with you with -- and maybe I misheard you as well, but, you know, with Iraq. You're saying that's a success story. You know, did Saddam Hussein resurrect his nuclear weapons program? We have no evidence of that. I mean, there's no evidence he resurrected that program --
FORD: You can look at whichever war you want, but there was one before --
FERGUSON: I'm referring to the -- I'm referring to the March 2003 --
FORD: Well, 2003, 1991, you can put -- I don't care, from that perspective. But there was --
FERGUSON: But I'm saying --
FORD: -- a program and it's no long there --
FERGUSON: -- there was no --
FORD: -- thanks to non-NPT intervention.
FERGUSON: -- yeah. There was no need to -- for that invasion of Iraq.
FORD: I'm not debating the invasion, per se --
FERGUSON: Well, but --
FORD: -- I'm saying it's good that their program --
FERGUSON: -- it seems that you're taking credit for --
FORD: -- no longer exists.
FERGUSON: -- stopping the Iraqi nuclear weapons program --
SOKOLSKI: I will take credit for it. (Laughter.) I was in the first Bush administration and we did a pretty good job.
FERGUSON: Well, that action was smart. It was --
SOKOLSKI: Okay, okay.
FERGUSON: -- it was a limited action.
SOKOLSKI: We're going to encourage you two to go out in the hallway. (Laughter.) We have one more left.
LETTOW: Very briefly, a few points on our judgment of countries -- the question was about competencies -- there are actually two parts to that. One is our judgment of countries' capabilities, and one is our judgment of countries' intentions. And our track record is not terrific on either one.
I mean, we mentioned the classic case of that being Iraq. But, I'll throw out another one, which is in the '70s we had a variety of deals in training with what was then an allied Iran. And for, kind of, purely nonproliferation purposes, we stopped the most extreme of those, which I believe was a reprocessing transfer. And, obviously, now that seems like a brilliant move.
I don't know if there was much foresight there, but part of the problem of nonproliferation is that once a country has capabilities it's intentions may change -- either the government may change, or it may decide based -- later on. So our track record is not great.
In terms of what can we do concretely now, I think -- and there will probably be lots of diversity of opinion on this panel, but certainly in the room, on the merits of each of President Obama's initiatives in the Prague speech. But I think it's undeniable that, en toto, the way he announced them, and what he announced has provided us with at least goodwill, and in some cases real leverage with other countries that we should deploy immediately -- first on the question of Iran, and to a lesser extent, North Korea, but also on some of these longer term initiatives.
And on Iran I think -- to close on both a, kind of, downbeat, but also potentially hopeful note, it is -- the United States cannot do this alone. I mean, it's just the fact. And we need much closer coordination with our European allies, in particular. But, also, to tie it back to a theme of the conference that came up last night, we have based our policy for decades -- in the case of both Russia and China, on the fact that they will be what Zoellick branded, in China's case, "a global stakeholder."
And this is an issue where they can show it now, and where we need their cooperation. I mean, Russia is indispensable in Iran, both in not stopping further pressure, and then actually proceeding with it.
So, nonproliferation is a test of American leadership. The president has taken his approach. Hopefully, he can translate that into real leverage. But we also rely on other powers that are critical to this issue joining on-board right now.
SOKOLSKI: Well, let me make one comment and close out.
I just came from a war game at Newport, Rhode Island. I can't say anything about it, but let me just say that people leaving that room would've liked to have been here today because of the problems they had to struggle with in that game. They were very concerned about the long-term future of American ability to protect certain principles, interests and friends as a result of the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. It was quite interesting.
They all wore uniforms. That's what they left the room thinking about.
In this regard, let me just commend the panel. I'm reminded of a comment an old professor of mine, Albert Wolfsteader (sp) used to allude to. When he looked at the nonproliferation field he shook his head and he said, "You know, it would be nice, looking at this, if we could just stop making our mistakes hereditary." I think what he meant but that is excusing ourselves for having screwed up in the past and keep saying "we got to keep doing that because, well, we did it before."
I think this panel at least holds out a very strong hope that we will reexamine what we've done wrong in the past and think about how to get it right in the future. So, with that, thank you very much.
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